Skip to comments.Back When TV Signed OFF for the Night; with Music, Test Patterns and Nobel Indian Profiles
Posted on 09/10/2013 8:32:11 PM PDT by lee martell
Nowadays, thanks to the internet, cable, and satellite media, there is programming literally around the clock, at least in today's United States. There is never a time when you could turn on your state of the art, flat wall screen tv, press all the button combinations, only to find "nothing is on". This seems to be what the public wants, a never ending access to shows, movies, youtubes and music. It is nice to have but a short road to almost any type of production, at almost anytime. Of course, all depends on a reliable electrical grid to keep everybody connected, if that's what you want. I recall when local stations would sign off, I mean really sign off the air for the whole night. Many local stations would end the day with a solemn reading by a famous historic figure, or when it was near Christmas and Easter, Psalms were read. Then a test pattern, then a fade to black, or all night static. One Easter, the Kyrie by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina was used; a combination adult and children's choir.
As late as in 1983 this was the case. I recall vividly the weekend the world found out that Lady Astronaut Sally Ride had gone into space. After all the interviews and hoopla, it was time for Channel 4 to go off the air. Channel 4 then played what is probably my favorite, a piece by Gabriel Faure called Pavane, Opus 50 for flute and orchestra. The scene shows a swan on the water slowly going to sleep.
I was a fan of the late shows, when I got older, the late-late shows, long before pioneers like Tom Snyder of the Tomorrow Show gave more of us a reason to stay up late. We no longer had to settle for yet another showing of a B movie. When I say B movies, I mean something like the one with Tallulah Bankhead, called 'Die, Die, My Darling!", or Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in "Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?".
Other classic B films came out during the "rodents are the perfect pet" phase, one was "Ben" a story about a Boy and his Rat. Theme song by Michael Jackson, prior to his 10th facial reconstruction. The second Rat film of the time would be "Willard" with Ernest Borgnine. This film centered around a nerdy young man who was as they say nowadays; bullied. His only friends were rats, which he trained to do his bidding. the Willard character was being pushed around by whoever Ernest Borgnine was playing. Willard's classic line was "Tear Him UP!!" as he sicced his ratty pals on poor Ernest B.
Whoops, I can see I misspelled NOBLE, but I have no way to reach back in there and correct it. Oh Well. Next time, next time.
Yep. Your typo will live on in FR lore from this day, forward. Immortal-like, even.
Another day and time. A different country, even.
It was hell I tell ya, pure hell.
I can’t remember the last time I saw a TV station signoff, but it must have been in the late 1990s. There was a local public TV station that would always sign off with the Star Spangled Banner and show the US flag being raised on Iwo Jima.
Never worked 2nd or 3rd shift hey?
America used to go to sleep at night, which made the night time a truly magical place for the wild cats, and there were almost no cops out and about.
Cheech: “What’re you watching , man”
Chong: “It’s a movie about Indians man but its really boring”
Godzilla, Rodan, Monster X, Mothra... Those were the days, er nights.
I don't remember if Cal Worthington ran his "spots" at those hours, though, lol.
There isn’t much video of real authentic sign-offs from the 50s thru 70s, since video tape was either not invented yet or not likely to be wasted on something as mundane as a sign-off. But most often it was a standard announcement like this:
Followed by the National Anthem.
EVERY station I’ve been around played the National Anthem, ever night.
One thing I frankly do miss about the days of having just three tv-channels, which would all sign-off as the late-night hours progressed... is that you really ‘felt’ the lateness of the hour. Felt it down to your bones. Commercials were more specifically low-key and befitting the late time. It made the whole experience of staying up and watching something a more distinctly unique and memorable event.
You can’t quite capture that same thing anymore. There’s not the same element of ‘locality,’ via the local stations. It’s all national in scope. With hundreds of networks all blaring the same kind of material that is found in daytime, 24-hours-a-day.
I remember staying up really late and watching this sign off called, “High Flight” with video of a T-38 flying through the clouds with a narrator reading a poem.
Man, those were the days, weren't they? I used to split a gut listening to those guys.
Oh yeah. I remember it well. I used to beg my mom to let me stay up and watch the Million Dollar Movie. I never made it through a single one when she did :-)
I would have never had as many kids if I couldn’t feed them and watch the house flipping shows at 3am.
That's it! I was just trying to remember the name of that poem.
Sometimes I would make sure to stay up until sign-off, just so I could hear it. It gave me chills every time.
Plus, the late-show movies were such a deliriously crazy-quilt lot back then... 40s classics starring the likes of Alan Ladd, cheapo Roger Corman films from the late-50s, Japanese monster movies, obscure 40s/50s British b-films, Italian gladiator movies, old-time 30s films, Charlie Chan titles, b-westerns, Dorothy Lamour sarong films.
I still seem to remember just about every oddball film I saw as a late-show offering. I could probably list hundreds. Things like “Big Broadcast of 1937” to Roger Corman’s “Rock All Night” to a little-known, modern-day train film “Night Freight” starring Forrest Tucker. “Trail of the Lonesome Pine,” “The Atomic City,” “Loan Shark,” eh, the list could go on and on.
Two more favorites are Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, episodes of One STEP BEYOND.
Wow! Thank you so much for posting that. I was a young kid and *loved* High Flight! I thought it was amazing. I would stay up late just to watch it. Ah, memories of a different time.
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